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Parenting

How To Praise Your Kids Effectively

Sometimes, it’s easy to fall back on “Good job!” when we’re not sure what else to say. A “good job” now and then is fine, but it doesn’t help children understand why what they did was good. Here are some suggestions to give the kids specific, detailed information that recognises their achievements and encourages their learning.

USE SENTENCE STARTERS

Say “I see you,” “I hear you,” or “I noticed,” followed by a description. “I noticed you sorted the kitchen cutlery into the forks and the spoons.” Or try openers like “Tell me more about…” or “You worked really hard to…”

NOTICE AND GIVE FEEDBACK ABOUT EFFORTS

“Ariel, you spent a long time figuring out where to put the last two pieces of the puzzle. You kept working till you were done!”

INVITE CHILDREN TO TALK

Children’s learning is enhanced when they talk about their explorations and creations. “That looks really interesting! How did you do that?” or “You write a lot of words on your paper. Would you tell me what they say?”

SAY “THANK YOU”

When children are helpful, thank them. “Thank you for opening the door for me. While you held the door, I could use both hands to carry our bags of groceries into the house.”

HIGHLIGHT CHILDREN’S WORK

Invite children to help find a place to hang a painting. Encourage them to share their work with the family. Include photos that demonstrate the children’s efforts and accomplishments in a blog or family journal. “Danish and Elisha, please help me choose some photos. I’d like our family to see how you worked together to make a scrapbook about our trip to Sentosa.”

PAY ATTENTION TO DETAILS

When talking about a painting, tell your little Picasso what shapes, lines colours, textures and forms you see in the work. “Look at all of the green polka dots in the sky! You mixed many shades of green and blue to paint this picture.”

IDENTIFY A GOAL BEFORE RESPONDING

Ask yourself: Do I want to acknowledge a positive behaviour, an act of kindness or use of problem-solving skills? To encourage self-regulation, you might say, “How kind you are! You helped your sister keep all the toys away even when you didn’t play them today.”

GIVE NON-VERBAL FEEDBACK

A gentle pat on the back, a smile, a wink or a fist bump tell a child, “I see you are learning.” This is especially appropriate for children who are dual language learners.

USE MIRRORING

When a child goes up and down the slide on her own the first time, notice her smile and then smile back with a specific comment. “Look at what you did! Just yesterday you asked me to help and now you can do it on your own.”

ENCOURAGE NEXT STEPS

After a child has one positive experience, suggest something that they can do that leads to another accomplishment. “The boat you drew has two masts and lots of portholes. What materials could you use to build it?”

Also, here are three alternatives to praising your kids:

Say “Thank You!”

For when your kids tell you they’ve done something helpful, or something they’re proud of. If a quick “thank you” doesn’t feel enough, add, “I really appreciate that!”

Say “Wow!”

For when your kids do something impressive or show you cool things they can do. You may also add, “You must have practised that a long time.”

Say “You Did It!”

For when you kids achieve a task that is difficult or time consuming. Don’t forget to add, “You sure put in a lot of effort!”

Originally published in “Stop Saying Good Job!”, written by Raja Jumira, in Singapore’s Child June 2015.